Since President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Hawaii in a few days, a diverse group of organizations known as the Hawaii Coalition for Civil Rights decided that this is a prime moment for a little education. Not of Trump, of course–that doddering white supremacist clown can’t be trusted to follow the directions on a box of tissues–but of the rest of the nation.
Let’s face it, we live in dark times; authoritarians like Trump and others around the world are attempting to destroy democracy and the rule of law with ferocious speed. Thankfully, this nation still has a great many individuals and groups pledged to fight fascism wherever it occurs. Hence the following open letter, which though addressed to Trump, is clearly meant for you. So please read it.
November 1, 2017
VIA MAIL AND PUBLICATION
President Donald J. Trump
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Re: November 3, 2017, Presidential Visit to Hawaiʻi
Dear President Trump,
As it is our custom in Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiʻi Coalition for Civil Rights would like to welcome you to the state by presenting you with a lei of Aloha from our member organizations. Aloha is not just a greeting, it is deeply rooted in the exchange of the breath that gives us life and binds us together as a community. Aloha is also the Native Hawaiian word for love, peace, and compassion. In the spirit of Aloha, we also offer some reflections and invitations as you prepare for your upcoming visit to Hawaii.
Not far from Pearl Harbor, there is a National Monument that we hope you will visit. Honouliuli National Monument marks the site of one of the many internment camps used to unlawfully incarcerate Americans of Japanese ancestry (AJAs) during World War II. Hawaiʻi AJAs were detained at Honouliuli, Sand Island and thirteen (13) other locations throughout Hawaiʻi pursuant to Executive Order 9066, which, like some of your recent executive orders and proclamations, identified entire groups of people as a national security threat based solely on their ancestry and national origin. Honouliuli is a place to remember and reflect on the terrible consequences of judging others based on race, their religion, or where they come from. We sincerely hope that visiting Honouliuli will remind you that government action under the guise of national security cannot come at the expense of depriving individual rights.
As you travel abroad to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, we hope you find time to talk and listen to first, second, and third generation immigrants from those and other countries in Hawaiʻi. We are a very diverse state. Throughout our history, Hawaiʻi has welcomed wave after wave of immigrants, making us the strong, diverse, and pluralistic society that welcomes you here today. You will hear varying perspectives about politics, policy, and priorities that are united by the common thread of diversity and respect for one another. It is not football, or standing for the national anthem, or our ancestry that makes this group of islands in the Pacific part of the United States of America, it is our shared values of Aloha of respect and understanding. We sincerely hope that those conversations will help you become a more effective ambassador for our country and understand that immigration policy and enforcement also cannot come at the expense of those shared values.
Hawaiʻi also has a long and proud history of women leaders. Congresswoman Patsy Mink was the first woman of color to serve in the U.S. Congress and was the co-author of Title IX, the landmark legislation giving equal opportunities in education to women. It is not surprising that the historic 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. started in Maui with one woman’s quiet plea to exercise the freedom of expression. We hope you will find time to talk and listen to Hawaiʻi women who are fearful that the progress made in women’s rights is eroding. In their concerns, we hope you will recognize the value of being treated equally is one that unites this great country.
The Women’s March is not the only revolution started from our shores. In 1993, the Supreme Court of Hawaiʻi for the first time considered whether the fundamental right to marry could be denied to same-sex couples under the Hawaiʻi and U.S. Constitution. Twenty-two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court finally decided it could not. Even though it took a while, it was those same shared values of Aloha of respect and understanding of one another that inextricably tie these two decisions together and that make it not only just, but necessary, that transgender men and women in uniform be allowed to continue serving our country.
You have been tasked with the awesome responsibility of uniting our country at a very difficult time. That does not mean we need to agree on everything, or look the same, or worship the same god, or share the same politics. What it means though is that you must honor the oath of office to protect our most fundamental values without which we are not and cannot be one people: freedom of speech and religion, security in our persons and belongings, due process, and equality under the law. In short, our fundamental shared values of Aloha that we all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness no matter the color of our skin, country of origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and sexual identity or expression.
We hope your time in Hawaiʻi will allow you to reflect on this as you think about your legacy and the tremendous opportunity you have to heal and unite our country.
With the warmest Aloha,
Hawaiʻi Coalition for Civil Rights
In case you were wondering, the following organizations comprise the Hawaii Coalition for Civil Rights:
African American Lawyers Association of Hawaii
American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii
American Immigration Lawyers Association, Hawaii Chapter
Amnesty International, Hawaii Chapter
Filipino American Advocacy Network
Filipino American Citizens League
Hawaii Filipino Lawyers Association
Hawaii Friends of Civil Rights
Japanese American Citizens League, Honolulu Chapter
Muslim Association of Hawaii
Honolulu Hawaii NAACP
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Hawaii Chapter
The Interfaith Alliance Hawaii
The Legal Clinic
United Here! Local 5
Click here for a PDF of the open letter.
Photo courtesy ACLU Hawaii